Hands-on: Samurai Shodown: Edge of Destiny

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Samurai Shodown: Edge of Destiny, the latest in SNK's long-lived weapons-based fighting game series, feels totally different from its predecessors. The K2-developed fighter doesn't just add 3D graphics to the series more successfully than the version on the short-lived Hyper Neo Geo 64 system -- it adds some 3D movement as well, in the form of a dodge move.

During our quick match, Ignition's Shane Bettenhausen described it as "Samurai Shodown meets Soul Calibur meets Bushido Blade," a classification that aptly encapsulates some of the changes in the game.
%Gallery-65488%Aside from the obvious change in presentation, the controls have been refreshed. There are now buttons for horizontal and vertical slashes, a kick button, and a throw button. Blocking occurs automatically while in a neutral position.

Eleven new characters -- emphasis on the new -- have joined the group as well. The left side of the character select screen features 11 favorites from the series, including characters like Ukyo and Nakoruru, while the right side features a rather fanciful international cast of 13 new characters, who broadly parody the foreign influences that began to affect Japan at the end of the Edo period. For example, Bettenhausen fought as J, best described as an Afro Samurai-alike, and we took control of Gallows, a thick Viking who looks like Gilius Thunderhead from Golden Axe.

Interestingly, the different characters seemed to have totally different move sets: Gallows' move list was all button combinations, no directional input required -- more of a Soul Calibur type of input than Street Fighter. This move list displayed during one of the loading sequences, which were unfortunately kind of lengthy. Bettenhausen assured us that this was a problem only in the extremely early version of the game we played. To be honest, some of the interstitial art in the loading sequences made us not mind so much.

The Bushido Blade influence -- and also a sort of Guilty Gear influence -- comes in the form of instant-kill moves. In the second round of a match, players can launch a deadly move that instantly (and violently) ends the fight. The particular move unleashed upon our poor Viking involved a horizontal slice across the abdomen, from which issued an amount of blood certain to lead to a Mature rating. This was apparently one of the less brutal finishers, with removal of various body parts possible.

Samurai Shodown: Edge of Destiny is currently scheduled for a November 2009 launch, and will feature Xbox Live compatibility. Bettenhausen confirmed that it will be a 360 exclusive in both North America and Japan (well, sort of -- there's also an arcade machine in Japan).
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